The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has taken steps to restrict surface water withdrawals under previously-issued temporary diversion licenses (TDLs) due to hot, dry weather and low flow surface water conditions across Alberta. The restrictions are intended to protect aquatic ecosystems at risk due to drought.
TDLs are commonly used by oil and gas operators and their contractors as authority to source water for hydraulic fracturing and other oilfield operations. In Alberta, the province owns all of the water and a license from the AER is required by the oil and gas industry to divert and use the water.
The AER is also not accepting new applications for TDLs for several large water basins in Alberta. Water levels and flows in Alberta’s lakes, rivers and streams is being monitored. The AER has stated that it will lift the restrictions when levels and flows return to acceptable levels.
The AER has also been encouraging operators undertaking hydraulic fracturing to use produced (saline) water when possible and to treat and reuse flowback water for future fracturing operations.
Last year due to low flows and concerns about impacts to fish and community resources, the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission suspended short-term water withdrawals from all rivers, creeks, streams and lakes by the oil and gas industry in northeast B.C., with the exception of several large rivers and lakes. Over the Fall of 2014 the suspension was lifted on a basin-by-basin basis as flows recovered due to rainfall.